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Lawsuits May Hit More Priests

Lawyer Warns of Three 'Predator' Clerics In The Rochester Area

Nov 21, 2002 | Rochester Democrat Chronicle

An Albany lawyer who this year settled a priest sex abuse case in Rochester may file more lawsuits early next year.

In between meetings with clients at the Crowne Plaza Rochester on Wednesday, John Aretakis said that there are about three “predatory priests†in the Rochester area that present “a real danger.â€

Aretakis said he is representing clients who say they were abused by other Rochester area priests who are retired, deceased or no longer live here. Most of these incidents occurred during the 1970s or 1980s, he said. Some of his clients “want an apology; some want money for years of counseling,†he said.

Aretakis said he was also in Rochester to “start a dialogue†with Paul Yesawich, lawyer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.

If he cannot reach a settlement with the diocese on these cases, Aretakis indicated he would file lawsuits early next year.

“The power of being abused as a child by a priest is so strong, so destructive, that most victims don’t come out of this slumber for 15 to 25 years,†he said during a news conference.

But Michael Tedesco, a diocesan spokesman, said the diocese “has not ruled out any type of willingness to sit down and talk†with Aretakis.

One of Aretakis’ clients, a 36-year-old Rochester man, said he was sexually molested in 1980 when he was a freshman at a local Catholic high school. He asked to remain anonymous.

The dean of discipline, when reprimanding him for smoking, allegedly pulled down the teen’s pants and smacked his bare buttocks. On other occasions, alleged the Rochester man, the same dean “used his disciplinary position to sodomize and molest me.†The teen left school after only eight weeks, although it meant giving up an academic scholarship.

“I went from being a straight A student to a D student,†he said.

Another Aretakis client, now 40, said that from age 9 to 15, he was sexually molested by his Rochester parish priest.

“I was in a fog of embarrassment and shame,†said the former altar boy. “Fifteen, twenty years go by and finally you come to grips with something so violent, so ugly.â€

This is not Aretakis’ first dealings with the Rochester diocese.

In May, the diocese offered to pay for five years of counseling costs for Paul Hearty, a man who was molested by the Rev. William Lum.

In 1997, Lum pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor. He admitted to molesting Hearty, then 16, in the rector of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Greece.

A state appellate court had dismissed Hearty’s case against the diocese in February.

Tedesco said most recently the diocese had formed a support group for victims. It continues to encourage people who were victimized to come forward, he said.

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